Anti-Discrimination and Diversity
Equality, diversity and non discrimination are fundamental ingredients of the European idea, but have been mixed up in different ways along the years. Concerning equality, the original recipe prescribed the Aristotelian principle of formal equality, according to which "things that are alike should be treated alike" and differences among people should be deemed irrelevant. This approach proved inadequate to tackle all forms discriminations and did not take into account the fact that the equal application of rules to different groups or individuals can produce unequal results. In the last fifteen years a shift towards substantive equality has taken place in Europe, which seeks to remove the obstacles to the achievement of equal opportunity and equal outcomes. Therefore, the recipe has been enriched with bigger quantities of a tasty spice, diversity, which can be defined as the range of human differences, consisting of numerous visible and non visible grounds such as gender, race, ethnicity, religion, disability, sexual orientation, political opinion, citizenship and many others (Travelling Cultural Diversity, Salto-Youth Cultural Diversity). The increased recognition of diversity as a European value emphasizes the benefits of having multifaceted experiences in shaping a democratic society and the integrity of each and all individuals. Ultimately, it brings about individuals' "right to be different" and not to be discriminated against because of this difference, by going beyond stereotypes, prejudices and stigmatization of what is conceived as "Other".
Within the European Union, the motto "United in Diversity" enshrines the idea that Europeans are united in building together peace and democracy, and that the many different cultures, traditions and languages existing in Europe are a plus value for the continent. However, till 1997, the main focus of the anti-discrimination protection was limited to the nationality of Member States' citizens and to gender. Later on, new powers for combating discrimination on the grounds of race, ethnic origin, religion or beliefs, disability, age or sexual orientation were conferred under the substantive amendments to the Treaty of Amsterdam in 1997, together with the reinforcement of those regarding discrimination based on gender. As result of this process, the EU institutions passed a set of anti-discrimination Directives in 2000, the so called Equality Directives, providing everyone in the EU (citizens and Third Country nationals) with a common minimum level of legal protection against discrimination. The protection from these discriminations has been reiterated by the Lisbon Treaty, which entered into force on 1 December 2009. In fact, it confers the same legal value as the European Treaties to the Charter of Fundamental Rights of The European Union, signed on 7 December 2000 in Nice, whose chapter III, titled "Equality", promotes the non discrimination principle on the base of a wide range of grounds, while, at the same time, calls for respect for cultural, religious and linguistic diversity. Attention has been given also to multiple discriminations suffered by individuals (women in particular) because of the overlap or intersection of more grounds of discrimination. On the other hand, this set of law does not cover differences of treatment based on nationality or on the legal status of the third-country nationals, even if the Directive 2003/109 for long term residents breaches the wall of the Fortress Europe. A major impetus to anti-discrimination and diversity has been given by the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA), that was enforced on the 1st of March 2007 as a body of the European Union, built on the European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia (EUMC). It issues many studies and reports concerning the EU anti-discrimination strategy, focusing as well on particularly vulnerable groups, such as asylum-seekers, the Roma minority, Muslim people.
Besides, the EU has been supporting and financing several activities concerning diversity and non discrimination, such as the five-year pan-European information campaign on combating discrimination on the grounds of racial or ethnic origin, religion or belief, age, disability and sexual orientation, under the slogan "For Diversity. Against Discrimination", in which youth issues were very stressed.
In order to raise awareness on the need to enhance the principle of non-discrimination in practice, to foster intercultural dialogue and to promote social inclusion, the EU named 2007 to be the Year of "Equal Opportunities for All"; 2008 to be the Year of Year of Intercultural Dialogue ; and 2010 to be the Year Combating Poverty and Social Exclusion.
Concerning the Council of Europe, its commitment to combating discrimination and in valuing diversity can be traced back to decades ago. Art. 14 of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, signed in Rome in 1950 and strengthened by Protocol No. 12 reads: "The enjoyment of the rights and freedoms set forth in this Convention shall be secured without discrimination on any ground such as sex, race, colour, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, association with a national minority, property, birth or other status". The Convention will arguably increase its significance also within the EU, because the Lisbon Treaty provides that the European Union "shall accede to the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms", becoming a party to the convention in the same way each of its member states is. Many other documents complement the fight against discrimination within the Council of Europe, like the revised European Social Charter, whose art. 20 fosters "the right to equal opportunities and equal treatment in matters of employment and occupation without discrimination on the grounds of sex" and the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities, signed in 1995. Within the Council of Europe, the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) issued a number of Recommendations to promote the anti-discrimination principle, to fight against racism and racial discrimination, to harmonize the post 11/9 anti-terrorism legislations and practices with the anti-discrimination protection on grounds of nationality, national or ethnic origin and religion and, more often, in discriminatory practices by public authorities. In particular The Ecri General Policy Reccomandation N. 8 on Combatting racism while fighting terrorism, adopted on 17 March 2004, has a particular impact on Youth as well, because many practices (as racial profiling) concern Muslim young men. In the last four years, the Council of Europe and the European Union have been cooperating in running the awareness raising Campaign "Dosta!", to break down stereotypes and prejudices on the Roma minority.
The EU and CoE policy in the Youth Sector have been dramatically impacted by the aforesaid general legislation and activities. In 2001 the European Commission launched the White Paper on Youth Policy, in which the fight against racism and xenophobia plays a prominent role together with the "mainstreaming of youth" in other policy areas, predominantly, concerning the fight against racism, xenophobia and other forms of discrimination as well as health and well-being.
The European Commission gave a new impetus to youth education, employment and inclusion policies with the Communication "Promoting young people's full participation in education, employment and society", adopted by in September 2007, setting as key issue the achievement of social inclusion and equal opportunities of minorities' young people. Also the Youth in Action Programme for the period 2007 to 2013, has among its objectives the promotion of the fundamental values of the EU among young people, in particular respect for human dignity, equality, respect for human rights, tolerance and non discrimination. In 2008, following a consultation involving national governments, the European Youth Forum, youth organisations and other stakeholders, the European Commission launched the new strategy "Youth – Investing and Empowering", that suggests to mainstream youth in all anti-discrimination policies.
The European Spring Council of March 2005 adopted the Youth Pact in 2005, as part of the revised Lisbon Strategy, aiming at improving all young people's education, employment, vocational integration, mobility and social inclusion. In 2009, the European Youth Forum suggested that, in occasion of the revision of the Lisbon Strategy in 2010, a renewed and updated European Youth Pact should be integrated in the Europe 2020 strategy, in order to draft "special measures addressing the needs of specific groups of young people facing discrimination and social exclusion: young women, young migrants, young people with disability, young LGBT people, young people from ethnic and religious minorities, as well as young people with fewer financial means". Consequently, the Europe 2020 strategy launched Youth on the Move, which enucleates 28 key actions aimed at increasing young people's employability and access to the labour market, encouraging above all those young people from disadvantaged backgrounds that have difficult access to EU grants to study or train in another country.
Besides, the Council of the European Union issued the Resolution on a renewed framework for European cooperation in the youth field (2010-2018) on 27 November 2009, that seeks to anchor the European Youth Policy in the international system of human rights. It reads: "A number of guiding principles should be observed in all policies and activities concerning young people, namely the importance of (a) promoting gender equality and combating all forms of discrimination, respecting the rights and observing the principles recognised inter alia in Articles 21 and 23 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union".
Within the Council of Europe, the so called "AGENDA 2020" was signed in Kyiv (Ukraine) on 11 October 2008 by the Ministers responsible for Youth from the 49 States party to the European Cultural Convention of the Council of Europe, in order to refresh the youth agenda of the Council of Europe, as suggested by the Parliamentary Assembly's Recommendation 1844 (2008). The "Agenda 2020" sets a number of priorities for the Council of Europe youth policy and action, among which empowering young people to promote, in their daily life, cultural diversity as well as intercultural dialogue and co-operation; preventing and counteracting all forms of racism and discrimination on any ground; supporting initiatives of young people in conflict prevention and management as well as post-conflict reconciliation by means of intercultural dialogue, including its religious dimension; supporting youth work with young refugees, asylum-seekers and displaced persons.
In the same year, a Resolution on the youth policy of the Council of Europe, adopted on 25 November 2008, aims to follow up the Action Plan agreed in Warsaw in 2005, particularly the youth campaign for diversity, human rights and participation "All different − All equal" (see below) and, therefore, sets up many ambitious goals, among which: to promote equal opportunities for the participation of all young people in all aspects of their everyday lives; to effectively implement gender equality and prevent all forms of gender-based violence; to live together in diverse societies.
The European Union and the Council of Europe launched several joined Campaigns to promote the principles of Equality and of Non Discrimination. For example, from June 2006 to September 2007 the Council of Europe, in partnership with the European Commission and the European Youth Forum, ran the aforesaid Campaign for Diversity, Human Rights and Participation, entitled "All Different – All Equal", in order to strengthen the fight against racism, anti-Semitism, Xenophobia and Intolerance. The title of the Campaign was inspired by the namesake one ran in 1995 by the Member States of the Council of Europe.
In the framework of the Partnership in the youth field set up by the European Commission and the Council of Europe, the focus around the themes anti-discrimination, social cohesion, inclusion and diversity has increased since 2005 and has been reflected in the organization of thematic research seminars on social inclusion (2005), on diversity, human rights and participation (2006) and non equal opportunities for all (2007). Collection of the seminars' presentations has been produced for disseminating the outcomes of the events.
Text drafted by Barbara Giovanna Bello for the Partnership between the European Commission and the Council of Europe in the field of youth
- Consultative meeting 'Quality in non-formal training youth activities in the broader Euro-Mediterranean context'
- Youth research seminar on equal opportunities for all
- Research Seminar : Diversity-Human Rights-Participation
- Seminar on Diversity, human rights and participation in the framework of Euro-Mediterranean youth cooperation
- Training Active Trainers in Euro-Mediterranean youth work (TATEM)